Monday, December 12, 2011

Seventh Circuit Notes Circuit Conflict Over Section 7206(2)'s Disjunctive Textual Requirement (12/12/11)

In United States v. Joyner-Williams, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 24511 (7th Cir. 2011), here, the Seventh Circuit by summary order rejected an appeal in which the defendant's counsel filed an Anders brief (Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967)) notifying the court that counsel believed the arguments were frivolous and moved to withdraw.  So, summary affirmance is not surprising.  But, the short order contains an interesting footnote regarding the aiding and assisting, Section 7206(2), crime of conviction:
Our understanding of the statutory elements as expressed in Palivos and Hooks appears to be in tension with the text of the statute. Section 7206(2) literally says that a person commits the crime by assisting in "the preparation or presentation" of fraudulent documents in connection with matters arising under the internal revenue laws. This court and the Ninth Circuit, however, read the statute in the conjunctive to require that a defendant assist in both preparing and filing the document. See United States v. Kellogg, 955 F.2d 1244, 1248-49 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing United States v. Dahlstrom, 713 F.2d 1423, 1429 (9th Cir. 1983)). Five other circuits appear to have a contrary view. Three circuits have held—although two of them in unpublished decisions—that preparing a fraudulent return or other document, whether or not filed, is sufficient to violate the statute. United States v. McLain, 646 F.3d 599, 604 (8th Cir. 2011); United States v. Borden, 269 F. App'x 903, 904-05 (11th Cir. 2008) (nonprecedential decision); United States v. Feaster, 843 F.2d 1392, 1988 WL 33814, at *2 (6th Cir. Apr. 15, 1988) (nonprecedential decision). Two other circuits have expressed doubt that the act of filing is an essential element under § 7206(2); both courts hold that even if filing is an element, that element is met when a defendant gives a false return to a third party who is obligated by law to file the return with the IRS. United States v. Cutler, 948 F.2d 691, 694-95 (10th Cir. 1991); United States v. Monteiro, 871 F.2d 204, 209-10 (1st Cir. 1989). It is not necessary to resolve this issue here because there is no question that Joyner-Williams both prepared and filed false tax returns. Moreover, the district court instructed the jury using this court's conjunctive reading of § 7206(2), which, as recognized by the circuits that disagree with us, is more favorable to defendants than the statutory language would seem to permit.

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